Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Designing the Best Study Space With Your Child

1.  Location, Location, Location – When I was in high school, I did most of my homework (math really sticks out) on my bunk bed at 10 pm at night with my younger sister asleep in the bed below me.  What an awful spot!  Yet, it is where I felt the most comfortable and in our house with six children, two parents, and a dog, privacy was pretty uncommon.  I’m not suggesting that your student (especially younger ones!) do their homework in bed, but ask them where and why they do their homework and where else they might like to.  Perhaps they just want to be around people when they do their homework.  But perhaps this may be too distracting…then again…maybe their room is too distracting.  Try spots for a few days and agree on the best one.


2.  Materials – As any teacher knows more time can be wasted looking for a pencil, pen, marker, or eraser than on any other issue in the classroom.  Don’t make this an issue at home.  Have your student set up the area before school starts with packs of pencils, a sharpener, pens, erasers, tape, etc.  Go shopping before school starts and get the homework center with materials set up.  By the way, if your student is famous for forgetting their books at school, go with your child and ask the guidance counselor for a second set.  Many people think this is not helping their child be responsible and it may be, but it may also be a convenient excuse to not do homework.


3.  Computer – As middle schoolers continue through their career, they will need to use the computer more often for school projects.  Decide when each child gets access to the computer or signs up to use it if you have more than one child who may need it.  Consider getting a second computer or laptop or see if the school could provide one.  Many schools are supplying laptops (even for weekends).  If your child has many projects or few on the computer, be sure to have several flashdrives that all look different.  One can be for everything or one can be for several classes or items outside school.  Be sure to set up folders on the desktop with your child and one for each subject along with on the flashdrive so you all know where each item goes so there is not a long list of documents by week 4.


4.  Timing – Timing is everything for homework.  As seen in The Crumpled Paper Book (one of my favorites!), students often underestimate how much time it takes to do homework, after school activities, projects, eat dinner, and spend time with family.  Many students say…”I’ll do it later…” or “I don’t have much…”  Training your students to break down how much homework he has, name each class and homework (including studying for tests…which IS homework), break down projects into steps and make sure all the necessary materials are there.


5.  Supervision – The age-old question…do I sit there while my student does homework.  Quick answer…”It all depends…”  Each child has different needs, but in general, middle school students should be learning to do work independently and use their own organizational system.  Does that mean you shouldn’t work with them to achieve this goal?  It may be necessary for you to supervise and keep her on track during the beginning of the semester…or more.  Be sure to keep in touch with guidance counselors during this time to see what their thoughts are and the amount of work for your child.


6.  Resources – Does your child have what it takes to get the work done?  Internet access?  A trip to the library?  Resources are vital to the success of homework, but more often they are needed for projects.  If your student needs art supplies, foam board, etc, you should know about this before the project is due the next day.  So when you find out about a school project, be sure to ask for the directions and see the project assignment yourself to discuss the needs with your student.  By the way, if your child’s school has assignments posted online, be sure to know how to access the online postings yourself as well as your child.


7.  Noise/Light/Temp – I once did a little quiz in a women’s magazine about the space in our old home.  They asked, what room do you least like going in and why.  I discovered…to my dismay, that it was our study…the room I needed to prepare for teaching and use the computer…this was before laptops…imagine!  I unearthed in my deep psyche why that was and I discovered that I really didn’t like the lack of light (both natural and unnatural) and the temperature…it was always cold or in the summer, always hot.  Is that what your child’s study space is?  Be sure to discuss this with your student and rearrange a few lamps if necessary to create the best working space possible

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